#B: Famine Stele and the construction of Pyramids with man-made stone

Vth Egyptology Congress, Cairo, 1988
The Famine Stele and the construction of Pyramids with man-made stone
by Joseph Davidovits

Egyptologists have long claimed that no records exist which describe how the Pyramids were built. A stone stela is engraved on a rock at the island Sehel, near Elephantine, Egypt, north of Aswan. It was discovered in 1889 by C.E. Wilbour and was deciphered by various egyptologists:Brugsch (1891), Pleyte (1891), Morgan (1894), Sethe (1901), Barguet (1953) and Lichtheim (1973). This stela features three of the most renowned characters of the Egyptian civilization:

  • Pharaoh Zoser, around 2,750 BC, built the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqarah. This monument is claimed to illustrate the invention of building with stone.
  • Imhotep, scribe and architect of Zoser’s pyramid, who has been honored and deified for having invented the building with stone.
  • God Khnum, the potter who, as in the Bible, is fashioning the bodies of humans and gods with the Nile silt, with clay, in other words processing minerals.

Called “The Famine Stele”, it was engraved during a recent epoch, under the Ptolemees (200 BC), but certain reliable clues have led egyptologists to believe that, in an amplified form it had already become an authentic document by the beginning of the Old Kingdom (2,750 BC).

Yet, the most controversial aspect of this text resides in the fact that to build temples, pyramids and other sacred buildings, Khnum’s instructions and Imhotep’s revelations do not mention any constructional stone, such as limestone or sandstone or granite blocks. These materials are not found in the list. In Zoser’s dream (col. 19) Khnum is giving minerals and “since former times nobody ever worked with them to build the temples of the gods..”. To build monuments, Zoser was given a list of minerals and ores whose hieroglyphic names have not been translated so far. This is the reason why we started an in-depth study of each hieroglyphic word, in order to determine the technical key-words, those which are obviously difficult to translate.

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